Butler University professor Terri Jett hosts new WFYI video series

Terri Jett speaks during a “Simple Civics” episode. Episodes are available to watch on the WFYI website. Photo courtesy of WFYI.

ANNIE FAULKNER | STAFF REPORTER | aefaulkn@butler.edu

Butler University professor Terri Jett is the host of a new video series being released by WFYI, the PBS affiliate for Indianapolis. Jett serves as an associate professor of political science and special assistant to the provost for diversity and inclusivity. In this new video series, “Simple Civics,” Jett strives to educate Indianapolis through short and entertaining clips detailing different aspects of the US political system.

Jett said the goal of this series is to explain complex political systems in a way that resonates with the public. The series is intended to be relevant to people of all ages, from children to adults. The videos are all free to watch on the WFYI website and on YouTube, making them easily accessible to people across the Indianapolis area. 

“I am hoping that teachers will use [the series] with their students,” Jett said.

Four episodes have been confirmed thus far, with two already having been released to the public, but Jett is hopeful that more episodes will be filmed and that their release will continue into the 2020 presidential election season. Each episode released so far is between three and four minutes in length, with one covering prisoners’ rights and the other discussing the draft lottery system.

The first four episodes all relate to the new documentary released by WFYI that details the life and career of political activist Eugene V. Debs, a Hoosier that ran for president five times as the nominee for the Socialist Party.

“Amazing labor activist, was really a man of the people,” Jett said of the Indiana resident, “[WFYI] wants people to understand what he was fighting for, and that he was well within his rights to fight for it. You have the right to fight for your values and ideas — that is what democracy is about.”

Jett said the process of filming the series was exciting, and it was vastly different from teaching. The series is filled with various animated graphics, so it is filmed in front of a green screen. 

“I was talking kind of like I do as a professor, but I wasn’t really animated,” Jett said. “But they told me when you’re on video, you have to be really animated with your expressions.”

What makes Terri Jett the ideal spokesperson for WFYI? Alex Stencel, a first year political science major, is a current student of Jett’s who said he learned things he did not know before watching the new video series. He believes Jett is qualified to teach Indianapolis about politics in an entertaining way.

“She’s had such a big impact on Indianapolis as a whole,” Stencel said. “Because of her experience, she definitely has more impact.” 

In addition to teaching at Butler, Jett serves as president of the board for the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana and serves on the Indiana Debate Commission. She has also taught classes in the Indiana Women’s Prison about the works of Alice Walker, helping inmates to express themselves through poetry. As the special assistant to the provost for diversity and inclusion, Jett works to improve the diversity of faculty across Butler. 

Brandon Howard, a first year political science student, feels he has learned a lot from Jett.

“Her teaching methods make me feel like there’s never a wrong answer,” Howard said. “Anything that you say just opens more up for debate.”

By providing the public with factual information about the political history of the United States, the purpose of “Simple Civics” is to help people to navigate the complex political atmosphere that exists today.

“I really enjoy it,” Jett said, “I think it’s a really good way to push factual information out to the public.”

“Simple Civics” can be found on WFYI’s website or on the WFYIOnline YouTube Channel.


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